One of the main leaders of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF), Constantino Chiwenga is likely to challenge Emmerson Mnangagwa during the congress of the ruling party scheduled for next October.
Likely successor to the president before or after the 2023 general election, he was one of the key figures in the military during the military coup that ousted Robert Mugabe in 2017. His networks among the military, but also within the party and the government enabled him to create a movement aimed at pushing the head of state towards the exit.
Zimbabwe: the secret history of the fall of the Mugabes
His influence in the political spheres of Zanu-PF dates back to the colonial period, but it was weakened when he was conscripted into the army formed just after independence. Chiwenga commanded the first brigade in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city, in 1981, and is accused of having participated in a genocide: the Gukurahundi massacres, in which some 20,000 Ndebele from the provinces of Matabeleland and the Midlands were killed by a fifth brigade trained by North Korea. To date, Chiwenga and his associates have yet to issue a formal apology.
Mugabe’s trusted man, Chiwenga became commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Force in 2004, having led the national army since 1994. was then Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. In November 2017, Chiwenga successfully led a coup that overthrew Mugabe and brought the current president to power. He left the army to become vice president at the end of 2018.
Zimbabwe: how Emmerson Mnangagwa and his clan hold the country
However, his relationship with Mnangagwa became strained when the latter began to show an inclination to keep the supreme office beyond 2023. According to our information, an agreement had been reached before the coup, according to which Mnangagwa would lead the country for one term and then step down to make way for Chiwenga.
Also, although he supports the president in public, there are now two factions within Zanu-PF: one led by the head of state, the other by his deputy.
Chiwenga enjoys massive military support, but he also relies on an old guard resentful of having been removed from power by Mnangagwa, as well as some supporters and leaders of the exiled “Generation 40” faction, led by the old premiere dame, Grace Mugabe.